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Chris Henry: If only Ireland could win but still deny England the Six Nations title

Kicking on: Johnny Sexton finds his groove against France
Kicking on: Johnny Sexton finds his groove against France
Chris Henry

By Chris Henry

There's something special about a Six Nations afternoon in Cardiff.

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The bus journey from the team's Hilton hotel over to the stadium is a short one but always gets the heart rate going. You're met by a sea of red and green, the streets are heaving and everyone is enjoying the craic.

Come kick-off time, the anthems underneath the roof, the noise, the atmosphere, it all adds up to create a really special experience for the players.

Clermont away was a place that was really cool to play at but to be honest, there's nowhere like the Principality Stadium - and that's on a normal day, never mind one where the hosts have a Grand Slam on the line.

England are such a powerful team, and we've seen that from pretty much minute one of this Championship against Ireland, but if Wales are the ones celebrating on Saturday then it's a testament to their unbelievable competitive nature.

They haven't necessarily put together a complete game yet with only one match to go yet stand on the cusp of a clean sweep. That says a lot about their mentality, that willingness to fight and bit of grit that you need in any good team.

You'd expect nothing less from a team captained by Alun Wyn Jones. The man is a warrior and he's one of those players who has the rare ability to make everyone else around him better too.

If Liam Williams is out then it's a big loss for Wales but Josh Adams is someone who has been quality throughout and it says a lot about the level that the side is at that somebody as good as Dan Biggar is on the bench.

I'd expect them to get the job done but Ireland have a real history of derailing Grand Slam charges at the final hurdle and will take real confidence from what they did to France on Sunday.

It was my first time back in the Aviva for a long while and I really enjoyed watching the display from Ireland.

There's been so much attention and analysis of every aspect of their performance that it was great to see what felt like a month's worth of pent up aggression unleashed on the French.

There was a real intensity to the showing right from the start and a poor visiting side had no answer to the bullying they received. There were times that it really did feel like men against boys stuff.

There was more to it than just brawn, though. Ireland are always at their best when they show those smarts and there was plenty of that on offer at the weekend too.

France gave them so many opportunities out of touch and, with Rory Best and Iain Henderson working so well in tandem, there was a real variety to their attacking play with plenty of ambition and edge.

Johnny Sexton really seemed to have found his mojo once again and he was clearly enjoying himself out there, while the half-backs off the bench carried it on well in the last 20 minutes of the game.

Even if they weren't tested at all defensively, it struck me as a really professional performance that bodes well moving forward.

No matter what the competition, as a player you'll always target having something to play for on the last day and, after that start, Ireland have managed just that.

The odds are against them, though. Even if they do the business, I can't see an injury-riddled Scotland doing the same in Twickenham.

If only there was a way Ireland could win but still contribute to the greater good of keeping the crown away from England.

Future is bright with Ryan and Ringrose on rise

If James Ryan hadn't been named man of the match against France on Sunday, then the only other contender for me would have been Garry Ringrose.

Ryan was a monster and I think he's really growing into the complete rugby player.

When he played for Ireland before even getting a game for Leinster, I was sceptical enough but the more you see of him I think it's clear we're talking about a future Lion.

As for Ringrose, defensively he is so good and his work rate at 13 is exceptional.

Ireland's O'Connell and O'Driscoll 2.0? You never want to look too far ahead in rugby but given their age those two could go on to have a similar impact on the national side over the next 10 years... we can only hope they decide they need a rest for the Champions Cup quarter-final in a few weeks.

At the other end of the spectrum, what a day for Rory Best. It was only really spoken about on the final day before the game that this would be his last Six Nations match in Dublin.

The World Cup will be a great way to finish his Test career but Rory knows not everyone gets that BOD send-off so it's great to see him get to soak it all in.

Cian showed knowing the score can nearly yield big rewards

In addition to the four tries they got against France, you couldn't help but feel that Ireland left a few out there as well.

My favourite of the bunch was one that didn't count. It was a piece of quick thinking from Cian Healy to pounce on the ball when France left it unprotected on their own line, knowing that the in-goal area has no offside line.

Unfortunately for Cian, who I thought made a big impact, he just knocked it on in the process of trying to get his hand on it. His smile afterwards told you just how close he came to taking advantage.

It reminded me of my favourite try I ever scored for Ulster. It was a game against Ospreys at the end of 2016 where I managed to pull off what Cian was trying, jumping at a ball rolled onto his own line by Rhys Webb.

I can't remember how I came to know the law but as soon as I saw it there I knew it was in play. Fair to say not everyone agreed.

I think it was about six minutes from me getting my hand on the ball until we were able to kick the conversion with the TMO being called upon twice just to make sure the complaints from the Ospreys weren't justified. In the end, Marius Mitrea awarded it and we got the bonus point we required.

It pays to know that law!

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